The PN Blog 2017 Countdown!

It’s one of the final blog posts of the year, so what do you say we revisit all of 2017 with a countdown of my ten favorite blog posts from the past year!

#10 Farewell, David

I don’t mean to start off this countdown on a sad note by mentioning the loss of fellow puzzler and Penny Dell colleague David Lindsey. But it was an incredibly rewarding experience to talk to those who knew him better than I did, and put together a memorial piece in his honor. I learned so much, and it was a valuable part of the healing process for all of us. I had two different opportunities to get to know David, and that’s a rare gift.

#9 The Puzzle of the Bard

Puzzle history, codes, and wordplay are three common topics around here. So when I found a story that neatly covers all three, I simply couldn’t resist. Although this one is more conspiracy theory than verifiable puzzle history, it was great fun to do a deep dive into the ongoing debate surrounding Shakespeare’s identity and put a puzzly spin on the subject. The research alone made this one worthwhile.

#8 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#7 Cultural Sensitivity and Crosswords

Sadly, crosswords in general, and New York Times crosswords in particular, have a reputation for being stodgy, steeped in arcane vocabulary, obscure facts, and antiquated cultural references. As part of the ever-evolving narrative surrounding cultural sensitivity — not just ethnic, but in terms of gender and sexuality as well — it’s important to do more than acknowledge the debate. You have to participate in it.

#6 Puzzles in Unexpected Places

One was tucked away on a university website. Another sat in plain sight on a tombstone. The third came to light in a music fan’s collection. What did all three have in common? They represented a simple fact: puzzles are everywhere, a part of the cultural fabric in innumerable ways. I’m cheating a bit by mentioning three posts here, but they all fit the pattern. And it’s so much fun to discover puzzles in unexpected places.

#5 Puzzles for Pets

April Fools Day pranks are an Internet tradition at this point. Some websites go all out in celebrating the holiday. (Heck, ThinkGeek has started using the holiday to tease the public’s interest level in “fake” products, going on to actually release some of those April Fools pranks as real items later in the year!)

So when the idea was floated for PuzzleNation to get in on the pranking fun, I couldn’t resist. The result — Puzzles for Pets — was as layered as it was silly, complete with fake quotes, splash pages, and more. I even got my own dog, Bailey, in on the gag.

#4 Design Your Own Escape Room

Bringing a puzzle-solving mindset into other social activities has always been a passion of mine. I’ve written in previous blog posts about using my puzzly experiences in designing murder mystery dinners and other events. This year, I had the opportunity to try my hand at designing an escape room-style experience for a friend’s birthday, and sharing some of what I learned with you was a genuine treat.

#3 ACPT, New York Toy Fair, and more

There are few things better than spending time with fellow puzzlers and gamers, and we got to do a lot of that this year. Whether it was supporting new creators and exploring established companies at New York Toy Fair or cheering on my fellow puzzlers at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, getting out and talking shop with other creators is invigorating and encouraging. It really helps solidify the spirit of community that comes with being puzzly.

#2 Puzzle History

I mentioned puzzle history as a frequent blog post topic in #9, but recent revelations by government agencies in both the United States and Great Britain have allowed puzzlers greater access than ever before to the history of codebreaking over the last century or so.

In fact, so much information has come to light that I was able to do a three-part series on the history of the NSA and American codebreaking post-World War II. This was a labor of love that took weeks to put together, and I think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done for the blog.

#1 Daily POP Crosswords

There’s nothing more exciting than getting to announce the launch of a product that has been months or years in the making, so picking #1 was a no-brainer for me. It had to be the announcement of Daily POP Crosswords.

But it’s not just the app, it’s everything behind the app. I’ve had the opportunity to introduce you to several of the terrific constructors we’ve recruited to make the puzzles as fresh and engaging as they can possibly be, and you’ll get to meet a few more in the weeks to come.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship products as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make our apps the absolute best they can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

And it’s part of the evolution of PuzzleNation and PN Blog. Even as we work to ensure our current products are the best they can be, we’re always looking ahead to what’s next, what’s on the horizon, what’s to come.

Thanks for spending 2017 with us, through puzzle scandals and proposals, through forts and festivities, through doomsday prepping and daily delights. We’ll see you in 2018.

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A husband’s puzzly tribute takes a century to solve!

Some people immortalize their loved ones in poetry or song. Doctor Samuel Bean chose a different path, immortalizing his wives with a 15×15 puzzle grid on a marble tombstone dedicated to them both.


For nearly forty years, Bean refused to explain his tribute to his lost wives. In fact, he took the secret to his grave when he drowned during a vacation to Cuba in 1904.

The headstone remained in place, unsolved for decades to follow. Many puzzlers attempted to crack the puzzle, but the only person who claimed to solve it was the groundskeeper of the cemetery in 1942. (Naturally, he didn’t share his solution, leaving his claim unverified.)

Decades more followed with no solution in sight.

Finally, in the 1970s, a woman in her 90s who lived in a nearby retirement home shared her solution for the headstone puzzle, solving a mystery that had lasted over a century.

If you want a shot at cracking it yourself, you’re welcome to scroll up and look at the headstone again.

Go ahead. I’ll be right here when you get back.

Welcome back. Did you solve it? No? That’s okay. I can give you a hint, if you like.


There you go. I’ve highlighted the names of both wives in the grid. “Susanna” reads out like a standard word search entry, but “Henrietta” makes you work a little harder, zigzagging across part of the grid.

Okay, give it another shot. Good luck!

Hey there, welcome back! Whether you solved it or not, this is your warning that I’ll be discussing the solution below. So if you want to remain unspoiled, STOP READING HERE.

Last warning before spoilers!

Okay, hi there!

The zigzagging pattern revealed by “Henrietta” in the grid is really the key to unraveling this grid. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the message starts seven places in and seven places down. (Perhaps because the number rhymes with heaven? Maybe that’s what “reader meet us in heaven” means.)

Five straight lines in an expanding spiral spell out the words “In memoriam,” and then the zigzagging pattern takes over for the word “Henrietta,” continuing the spiral.

But the zigzagging pattern grows a little more complex at each corner of the spiral, jumping from one letter to another in an L shape (like a knight’s move in chess).

The zigzag spiral continues outward for four more stretches, before reverting to the straight lines that started the spiral. Those straight lines take over for five stretches of the spiral, and then the zigzag pattern returns (plus those knight-style corners) until the grid is completely filled in.


And what was Dr. Bean’s message?

In memoriam: Henrietta, Ist wife of S. Bean, M.D., who died 27th Sep. 1865, aged 23 years, 2 months and 17 days, and Susanna, his 2nd wife, who died 27th April, 1867, aged 26 years, 10 months and 15 days. 2 better wives 1 man never had, they were gifts from God but are now in Heaven. May God help me, S.B., to meet them there.

A lovely message that Bean clearly wanted strangers to work for. Nicely played, doctor.

[You can get more details on the lives of Samuel, Susanna, and Henrietta in this article (but be aware that they have a mistake in their recording of Bean’s message).]

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!